I looked outside this morning and the fog was so dense that I couldn’t see past the middle of the driveway. I thought, “Oooh, how beautiful, I want to go for a walk,” and then I paused and thought for a minute. 

The river has fog every morning, little wisps of it that trickle along the water’s surface like ghosts. I’ve enjoyed watching it and I’ve also noticed that the colder the morning, the more fog there seems to be on the river. That’s not entirely true — there was one crisp, clear, sparkly morning that reminded me of the taste of autumn apples and it wasn’t foggy at all. But mostly, fog & chill, they go together. 

So before I opened the van door, I asked Alexa for a weather report. Ha. 36 degrees! It is time to dig out the winter coat, I suppose. Fortunately, my time in Arcata seems to have overwritten the Florida in me or maybe my upstate New York roots are finally returning — the cold hasn’t been bothering me much, although I am definitely not spending as much time sitting outside writing as I imagined I would. That’s okay, though, because the view from the van window is lovely and I’m perfectly happy to be cozy inside my van while I write. 

By about 7:30, the sun shining through had turned the fog into a mass of gold at the end of the driveway. At 8, it was dancing wisps along the river again. And now, 9:30, it’s gone, but all the colors of the day are bright and intense — blues, greens, even the oranges of the leaves in the tree out front. 

I have noticed that the cold is making me crave carbs. Yesterday I was determined to eat salads: I’ve got mixed greens, arugula, radishes, cucumber, and pea pods, all closing in on a week old or older. I hate wasting food, so it was time to eat my veggies. But lunchtime rolled around and well, a warm rice bowl with tomatoes from the garden, oregano (also from the garden), and goat cheese just seemed so much nicer. I could have thrown a few other vegetables into it but I just wasn’t in the mood. For dinner, another rice bowl with steak, cilantro, and chili garlic sauce won over green salad. I think my mistake was buying summer vegetables — food I associate with cold salads on hot days — when it just doesn’t feel like summer to me. Today, salad for lunch. Definitely. Well, maybe. 

In writing news, my word count for the month has finally hit positive numbers. Not much in the way of numbers, but positive ones. That sounds terrible, but it’s really not. When I got here, I started reading from the beginning and then revising. Basically, I just completed a first revision round, even though I haven’t written the ending yet. If this was Grace, that would have taken me six months and I’d be thinking about starting over again from scratch, but instead I can say that I like what I’ve got. I’ve got to find the ending still, but I’m going to get there, and soon, too. Although in terms of useless notes, the last phrase in my final file of notes is “sacrificial volcano virgin?” What the heck? I have no idea what I was thinking there. 

I read a useful book this week: Dear Writer, You Need to Quit, by Becca Syme. I look at a lot of writing books on Amazon, and often read the Look Inside, then either turn away or think, eh, well, maybe someday. Sometimes I add them to my wish list. Sometimes I buy them, and add them to my immense To Be Read pile. This one, I read the Look Inside, purchased the book, then read the book. That almost never happens. But I’m glad I did. The book does not actually suggest that one should quit writing, although she does suggest quitting lots of other things, including “Quit Trying to Be Like Everyone Else” and “Quit Focusing on Your Weaknesses.” Were those my two favorite chapters? Maybe. 

After I finished, I reread Cici. Cici is the only book of mine that is a comfort reread for me, a story where on a rainy or a sad or a sick day, I read just so I can be part of that other world for a while. She makes me laugh. She still makes me laugh, even though I’ve read her dozens of times and know every twist — actually every phrase! — inside and out. And sure, I get critical the way I do with my other books — clunky line, repetition, a little slow here, etc.,  — the editor brain never shuts off. But not in a way that ruins my enjoyment. 

Cici has sold less than 300 copies, earned considerably less than $1000. From a business point of view, it makes absolutely no sense to write more books like Cici. But Cici brings me joy. And you know, life is better when you focus on what brings you joy and not on what earns you money. Obviously, starvation, homelessness, pain & suffering are all not likely to bring me joy, so I’d like to avoid total penury. But for the moment I’m going to accept the permission to quit trying to be like everyone else (not that I ever tried very hard, tbh) and write what brings me joy. 

I’m also going to quit ignoring the past. (Another chapter I liked.) My favorite of my books = my fastest-written book. My most well-reviewed book = my second fastest-written book. When I let go and let my intuition take me places, it takes me to interesting stories. When I try to follow the rules — three-act structure, character development, instigating events, blah-blah-blah — well, I’m not going to say the stories are bad, because I don’t think any of my stories are bad, and if I did I wouldn’t have published them. But I don’t gain anything from writing painstakingly and plotting carefully. 

Does Fen change in A Precarious Magic? Does she go from one place at the beginning to another at the end? Does she have an appropriate character arc for a main character? 

Honestly, do I care? Is she fun to read and do I have fun writing about her? Yes and yes. That’s the only question I’m going to focus on today and tomorrow and for as many future days as I can remember this.

Change is hard, so I know I will forget. Which means I’ll go back to letting the undercurrents of worry — (Will people like this? Will I disappoint them? Will they criticize me?) — push me around. I don’t want to care about those things and I try not to think about them, but they are much too firmly rooted in the instincts of every Former Good Girl for me to ever truly let go of them. But I’ve added a note, QTP, Question the Premise, to my whiteboard and hopefully it will remind me to reread Dear Writer whenever those undercurrents get too strong. 

And now, back to work. I feel like I owe you a snippet for sitting through this, but I’m much too deep into spoiler territory. Would reading the first chapter be fun? Or seeing the cover, maybe? Let me know!